This article was obviously written in the middle of the 2022/2023 season, before the capitulation. Before I flew home from Ponta Delgada to watch our victory lap.
I like this article because it nicely toes the line of overexcitement, nostalgia and philosophical angst.
It depicts a very true and important emotion for me, and, as I end my piece with, it was a cathartic love letter to the beautiful game! I hope you enjoy it.
I am an Arsenal fan. A pathetic, die-hard Arsenal fan who loves his football club and has followed them week in, week out since the age of 5. Here’s my love letter:
How I fell in love
In many ways, I am the archetypal football fan. It dictates the flow of my week; it has a vicelike grip over my emotions and social life. I grew up in North London, a stone’s throw away from the great Highbury Stadium. I have memories of sitting at the bottom of the stairs waiting for my dad to finish zipping up his jacket and do mine so we could finally embrace the cold from the house to the car and drive to Bounds Green tube to hop on the Picadilly Line for 5 stops and get off at the greatest station on earth: Arsenal.
My first-ever match was against Liverpool. The score was 2-2. I’m not one of those people who have tons of clear childhood memories, it’s just not how I work. However, I remember football matches I attended as a kid with jaw-dropping clarity.
When the Arsenal (the Arsenal written with the just like the Island) lifted the FA Cup in Cardiff against the once-monstrous-now-hilarious Manchester United, I was 8 years old. I remember watching my big bro kick a ball about with some of our family friends and wishing I could play football like the others; I remember ordering something fancy at a restaurant, hating it and making my big brother swap with me, much to his disgust given he told me I wouldn’t like it and TOLD ME that I should just get the same as him. I remember falling asleep during the first half and perking up in the second. I remember the outrageous tension of extra time as United battered us, and of course, I remember grand Patrick Viera sinking that penalty and feeling, for the first time in my life, ELATION! PURE, ecstatic release.
This joy can only happen as a result of a ball going into the old net. The joy led me to say, ‘This is the best day of my life’ to my dad and brother, and, lol, bless me, I slept on my dad’s mate Stewart the whole way home back to London. What a day – and I was hooked.
This routine accompanied me all the way through my childhood through secondary school. I was there when Our Lord, Our Saviour Thierry Henry ‘cast himself in bronze and produced a truly golden moment’ and won us the FA Cup tie vs Leeds. I was there when Ramsey did this and this to win Arsenal the FA Cup TWICE!!!!!!!! (I f*cking love that competition!). I was also there for when the lil Russian maestro Andriy Arshavin did THIS to beat Barcelona, the greatest club team on earth at home.
Moving away from London to Bristol and then abroad during my degree programme presented horrendous challenges for me. From partying until 7am in Mexico City and calling an Uber at 8 to watch the North London Derby against Sp*rs kick off at 8:30am to skipping uni classes to come back to London for midweek fixtures… my love led me to do some silly things.
One really important part to make clear before we move on to the present day is that during my time living outside of London, I always REALLY F*CKING missed the Arsenal. I know this is obvious, but it’s crucial to the second part of this piece. No matter how much I loved or hated where I was, my heart always gravitated back towards N5 and the Arsenal.
I’m literally getting emotional writing all this, and I haven’t even gotten to my point yet! Please stay with me!!!
After so many years of being shite, the one time we get good is… now.
So after all that… we get to the present day. Some of the anxieties and challenges from university have been put to bed. I’m a wiser, older man and I’m starting my career as a copywriter working for a company I love living on The Island and finding emotional and spiritual balance on a daily basis. It all feels very grown up and it would appear balancing priorities has been struck.
And yet… something is happening in London which causes a weekly identity crisis in my head.
Arsenal, for the first time in years, are… well, f*ck it, let’s not sugarcoat this. As our midfielder Granit Xhaka said in hilarious fashion on BT Sport this weekend, we’re “f*cking unbelievable”. Arsenal are top of the league and the spirit and joy surrounding the club is unlike anything any of us have seen in years.
The energy is electric, and the sound in the stadium is deafening. People are losing their collective sh*t and FALLING BACK IN LOVE with this football club after some painful years of mediocrity because we are TOP OF THE LEAGUE and doing it with the youngest squad in the league!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
As a football fan, this is it. The pinnacle. The stadium is heaven at the moment, and I… well, I am on a f*cking island in the middle of the sh*tty Atlantic.
Once a week, my heart SWELLS with emotion as my club wins and then… sinks. I missed it again. I missed everything. I was sat watching it in my room, whilst everyone else was flying high in heaven with the boys in Red.
It sounds childish and ungrateful… but once a week for about 3 hours, I would genuinely do anything in the world to trade my life on this sunny paradise island and sit in the horrible London rain to watch my Arsenal kick a football.
This weekend, when Arsenal beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and arguably created the climax of this beautiful season so far… I felt quite empty, overwhelmed and heartbroken.
A desperate attempt to bring this passion splurge to a conclusion…
I don’t even know what to say.
I’m fundamentally aware that it’s just a game. I know that the World Cup around the corner is a sickening, incomprehensible embodiment of everything corrupt, evil and wrong with our society, and I understand that football is a sport-washing, greenwashing mess of an entity. I know my club is imperfect. There are some very serious allegations against one of the players in our first 11, and I am not blind to the fact that should this case end a certain way, I’ll need to swallow a bitter pill.
There’s a lot of horror and sadness surrounding the sport, but for me, it’s too easy to dismiss it as “just a game” and use this to bash and lambast the game. You can go for the individuals responsible for terrible things, criticise them with FULL FORCE, and still appreciate that the sport is beautiful and creates memories and emotions like no other. In the same way that you would criticise the government of a complex regime and NOT the individual citizens, I firmly believe football should be treated as such.
This sport and this club mean so much to me, and I’m frustratingly reminded of that every week as I reckon with my exceptional life satisfaction right now and will myself away to sit in the freezing cold for just a few hours every weekend.
Lol —- that was cathartic! Hope you enjoyed.